London has so much to offer. Nightlife, theatres, concerts, museums, galleries. Plentiful and frequent public transport. It’s vibrant and it’s exciting.
Only that other than the buses and tubes, we rarely make use of any of it. I’ve not been well enough to work in the past year but every now and then on good days I’ve been able get to a museum or a gallery alone or with a friend. We have a concert coming up at the end of February, but I can’t remember the last time we went to a gig. We’re Southbank Centre members, but apart from one afternoon tea overlooking the river I don’t think we’ve been to a single event. We rarely even go to the cinema.
And London has so many downsides.
We’re not even central – we’re in a west London suburb – but there’s so much air pollution, light pollution, noise. Our street is a lovely one, full of trees and independent shops, but it’s busy. The downside of the transport network is that double decker buses stop literally outside our front window with a hiss of brakes and a puff of diesel. There’s an incredibly convenient mini supermarket down the street, but that comes with the noise of huge refrigerated lorries blocking the road. We live under the Heathrow flight path. Car alarms. Honking horns. Frequent bin lorries to service the shops.
Then there’s the money issue. Harry earns a good salary, but there’s no way in the world we could ever afford a house here. The houses we can see from our flat windows must be into the millions. We would love a garden, but it’s totally out of the question. We have a little balcony at the back and I do as much as I can to make it lovely, but there is no getting away from the fact that it looks out over the shipping containers that the shops use for storage, and onto the muddy, litter-strewn service road for the store deliveries and rubbish lorries.
All of the downsides are bothering us, particularly Harry, more and more. Is somewhere we find increasingly stressful the place where he wants to spend his retirement? It will be enough of a shock to our systems to have him at home every day when the flat has been my domain (albeit an enforced one) for years. Do we want to go through that somewhere that we’re not really happy anymore?
And if that’s a no – which we are sure now that it is – where do we go for the next phase of our lives?
Last weekend we were in Pembrokeshire. I looked into the sky as we walked to the pub and realised I could see the stars.